Gustav goes nuts

As expected when I last wrote and predicted by the models (though not to this extent), Gustav broke free from Jamaica, hit the deep warm waters of the Caribbean where very little wind shear exists, and exploded. The storm went from minimal Cat 1 at 3:15pm yesterday to strong Cat 3, now with 120 mph sustained wind! The official forecast calls for additional strengthening to about Cat 4 as it reaches western Cuba. This will be a devastating storm for western Cuba, including the Isle of Youth, where up to 2 feet of rain is possible along with a storm surge of 14-19 feet near the center of the storm. This morning’s radar imagery from Cuba, as well as the first visible satellite shot of the morning over the Gulf, taken at 7:15am, is shown below.

The projected path of the storm continues to take it into the southern Gulf as a major Cat 3 storm by tomorrow. As it approaches the U.S. mainland, the uncertainty starts to rise in it’s track and intensity. Regarding intensity, while conditions remain optimal through tomorrow, by Sunday night, shear is expected to increase and the waters actually cool slightly, which both could promote a slight weakening by the time it reaches the northern Gulf. Also, history tells us that storms just don’t maintain “monster” status for an extended period of time – conditions don’t stay that good for more than a day or so. Should Gustav reach Cat 4 or even 5 (which is not out of the question), I’m not sure with the conditions I mention above that it will be able to maintain that all the way to U.S. landfall. (Not that a Cat 2/3 storm is anything to take lightly of course, but total devastation would not be as likely).

As for the track, models continue in two camps, though one or two are starting to take on traitor status and jump from one to the other. Some continue to move Gustav directly northwest with landfall along the central Louisiana coast Monday night (which the Hurricane Center still is going with). But many are now indicating the high over the Great Lakes will not only shift the track left, but slow the storm down and then bend it back to the southwest after making landfall (or even before landfall according to a couple of models), increasing a flooding risk for eastern Texas and Louisiana by the middle of next week. See the track map below. In any case, it does now appear that the high pressure over the eastern U.S. will have a strong impact on Gustav and significant flooding could be a major part of this storm’s history when all is said and done. We’ll continue to monitor.

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Michael Detwiler
15 years ago

Nice information my friend!! Thank you for your weather blog